Fostering Diversity with a Professor/Environmental Activist by Fadwa Al-Taher
Spirit: In closing, what would you like to share with our readers that has not been covered thus far? What would you say right now if you were standing in a room filled with thousands of diverse women from around the world waiting to be intellectually stimulated by your pearls of wisdom?
Jean-Marie Kauth: Don’t poison your children! Don’t let anyone else! I recommend reading and being educated about these things. Our regulatory agencies aren’t doing their job; they aren’t protecting us. Unfortunately, that means that every single parent has to independently research and learn how to protect their children from environmental harm. That’s impossible to do completely; every baby now born is born pre-polluted. Under the Toxic Substance Control Act, only six substances have ever been banned since 1978. One was asbestos, and that was overturned in court. Asbestos is not illegal despite the fact that an estimated 10,000 people per year die of the exposures. People are trying to say it’s not harmful, and those people are just plain lying. Corporations are ruling our country. Since Citizens United and McCutcheon, corporations have undue influence in our elections. The New York Times recently did on exposé on the way Republican Attorneys General have been bought off by the fossil fuel industry. Corporations have an economic interest in controlling what our elected government officials do. They don’t apparently care if they poison our children. Both Sandra Steingraber and Devra Davis have written excellent books on this subject. The Environmental Working Group, Midwest Pesticide Action Center and Pesticide Action Network provide excellent resources as well. People do not know all the crooked, corrupt things corporations are doing, so companies are able to continue getting away with it. Why are we not holding chemical companies responsible? There are strict rules for some things; for example, McDonald’s can be sued for serving hot coffee. In some cases, people are able to sue over the smallest harms. But enormous crimes are perpetrated, people are killed by tobacco and environmental chemicals en masse, and there is no recourse. So many people have to die to prove a statistically significant correlation, especially because we don’t have a control group. We know for a fact that these pesticides are causing children to die of cancer, but we can’t say which ones. I can say with great certainty that my daughter’s illness and death was caused by pesticides, but we can’t prove it because we could not see inside her cells in real time. I’m glad I’m getting a Master’s in Public Health, because while the emphasis in that field on prevention is excellent, public health has also made some really disastrous mistakes, like saying mosquito spraying is a good idea to prevent some infectious disease while they are not looking at the total impact from the chronic exposures. We know how many people died of West Nile virus. We don’t know how many people died of mosquito spraying because you can’t easily link it to cancer. We should consider this; We should be notifying residents. Katherine was very special, the smartest and most loving person I ever knew, and she paid such a terrible price for other people’s ignorance. She wanted to live the typical age for women – 78: “Don’t I even get to live to the average age for men?” she would plead. She was aware she was dying and aware of all she would be missing. No child should have to pay that price for green lawns or bug-free days.